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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Purpose of School and How to Master It

Chapter 1 Live Life in the Classroom

Chapter 2 Choose Courses Carefully

Chapter 3 Build Teacher Relationships

Chapter 4 Manage Time Efficiently

Chapter 5 Take Good Notes

Chapter 6 Write Strong Research Papers

Chapter 7 Write Compelling Essays

Chapter 8 Study Effectively

Chapter 9 Ace Tests, Quizzes, and Final Exams

Chapter 10 Excel Beyond the Classroom

Appendix A Taking a Standardized Test

Appendix B Resources

Appendix C Study Calendar


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Straight-A Study Skills

Strategies that will transform your grades!

Straight-A Study Skills proves that you don’t have to spend countless hours studying to get good grades. Using her experience as an educational consultant and a teacher, authors Cynthia Clumeck Muchnick and Justin Ross Muchnick have created an easy-to-use approach to learning important study skills and achieving academic success. Through more than 200 entry-based strategies, you will learn all there is to know about strengthening your academic performance, including how to:

  • Get the most out of class time.
  • Find a note-taking system that works for you.
  • Improve your writing skills and create compelling essays.
  • Develop effective study habits.
  • Choose the right classes and extracurricular activities.
  • Prepare for standardized tests, quizzes, and final exams.

This guide is broken down into quick and easy concepts, tactics, and tips that highlight essential information and allow you to quickly find the topics you need to focus on. With Straight-A Study Skills, you’re guaranteed to sharpen your study skills, boost your grades, and position yourself for success!

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Press for Straight-A Study Skills

Parents Learn ABCs of College Admission

by L.B. Editor Feb. 5, 2015 A panelist with experience navigating college entry provided reassuring advice about an anxiety-ridden rite of passage for parents and their children at the PTA’s Coffee Break talk last week. Participants included representatives of the high school counseling department and community college, a private college counselor and author, and a private standardized test prep provider. Parents learned that Laguna Beach High School provides ample help navigating the process if they can take advantage of the annual College Round Up, which hosts more than 100 college representatives for an open-house in Dugger Gym. Additionally, nearly 90 college reps visit the school for more intimate meetings with interested students. Each student can also take advantage of an online tool, Naviance, to stay organized, take interest inventories, research colleges or enrichment programs, sign-up for meetings with visiting college reps, or standardized tests, etc. Push button for full... read more

Coffee Break: How to Get Into College

Kate Rogers/Coastline Pilot February 5, 2015 Getting into college can be one of the most anxiety-producing rites of passage for parents and their children. In response, PTA’s Coffee Break hosted a panel Wednesday to discuss college acceptance tips. Participants included two representatives of Laguna Beach High School’s counseling department, a local community college counseling official, a private college counselor and author, and a private provider of standardized-test preparation. Dawn Hunnicut, a college and career specialist, emphasized the value of campus visits that provide an opportunity to start a relationship with someone from one’s dream school. Read the full... read more

Like Mother, Like Son

Valerie Takahama / Orange Coast Magazine September, 2014 Newport Beach author Cynthia Muchnick has forged a career penning how-to books based on real-life experiences. Her first, “Will You Marry Me?,” was inspired by her husband’s marriage proposal. Now 16-year-old son Justin is following in her footsteps.   Read the Full... read more

5 Questions With … authors Cindy and Justin Muchnick

By Deepa Bharath / Orange County Register March 28, 2013 Cindy Muchnick and her 14-year-old son Justin say they enjoyed working together on their first book, “Straight-A Study Skills.” Justin – a graduate of Harbor Day School in Corona del Mar and freshman at Phillips Academy Andover in Boston – is no stranger to straight A’s. And Cindy Muchnick is just as familiar with writing: This is her seventh book. In an interview with The Current, mother and son share their experiences from writing the book.   Read the Full... read more

Mother, son team up for study skills book

By Steve Virgen / Daily Pilot March 27, 2013 Justin Muchnick likes to challenge himself to get good grades. At age 14 and away at Phillips Academy Andover school in Massachusetts he needs to live up to the challenge. Muchnick, a straight-A student, is a scholar-athlete. He went through the Corona del Mar Sharks Wrestling Club and is now a freshman varsity wrestler for PAA in the 132-pound weight class. Away from the mat, he has also wrestled with time management and test preparation. When he saw his mother, Cynthia, writing a book about studying skills it made sense for him to offer his own tips, and make some edits.   Read the Full... read more

Mother/Son Authors Release Study Guide Book

Corona Del Mar Today March 24, 2013 A mother-son relationship turned into a book-writing partnership when a Harbor Day School graduate and his mother co-authored a study skills book that was released earlier this year. Cindy Muchnick and her son, Justin, 14, will be signing copies of “Straight-A Study Skills: 180 Essential Strategies to Ace Your Exams, Boost Your Grades, And Achieve Lasting Academic Success” at noon on March 30 at the Barnes & Noble Metro Point.   Read the Full... read more

Mother/Son Team up to Make The Grade

By Sara Hall / Newport Beach Independent March 21, 2013 A local mother and son have put their heads together and co-authored a new book about study skills. Cindy Muchnick, Stanford University graduate and former college admission counselor and educational consultant, and her 14-year-old son, Justin, a Harbor Day School graduate who now attends Phillips Academy Andover boarding school in Boston, released their first book together in January. The book, “Straight-A Study Skills,” details more than 200 essential strategies to help students ace exams and boost their grades.   Read the Full... read more

Newport Mom and Son Co-Author Education Book

Nisha Gutierrez-Jaime / Newport Beach-Corona Del Mar Patch.com March 14, 2013   Cindy Muchnick and her teenage son Justin combined his perspective as a student and her expertise as a college admission counselor for a book devoted to helping students excel.   Read the Full... read more

Under Cover: Book Reveals Secrets of Straight A Students

Edie Crabtree / Newport Beach Independent January 19, 2013 If you are the parent of a high school student, you probably know that finals are just around the corner. Most likely, your student falls into one of two categories: the über-responsible self-starter who willingly studies for each test and quiz and simply needs a quick review, or the procrastinator who – while just as intelligent as student number one – adheres to the motto, “why study today for what you can cram for tomorrow.”   Read the Full... read more

Coffee Break: Laguna Beach PTA Parent Education Series

October 2012: Cynthia Muchnick “A Parents Guide to Study Skills and School Success: How to Support Your Child and Help them Navigate School” Talk will cover:  The unwritten “rules” of high school and, How Parents can: Help your child cultivate positive teacher relationships Support and Facilitate Good Study Skills Plan college prep in high school (thinking ahead!) Help your teen cultivate good time management Identify  Student “jobs” vs. Parent “jobs” An accomplished educator, author and educational consultant, Cindy Muchnik has conducted numerous workshops locally and across the country on steps to high school success, study skills, and college essay writing.  More than 40,000 copies of her newest book, “The Everything Guide to Study Skills,” have been sold. As a successful educational consultant, Cindy has had a profound impact on high school students who she has assisted with all aspects of the college application process.  Her clients have been admitted to prestigious schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, Brown, Yale, MIT, Duke, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern, Vassar, all UC schools, Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth, The Claremont Colleges, Cornell, Tufts, Georgetown, University of Texas, University of Michigan, Columbia, NYU, and USC among others. She worked as an Assistant Director of Admission for both the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago. She has read and evaluated more than 3,000 applications for college admission to competitive colleges. Cindy, a Stanford University graduate, and her husband live in Newport Beach with their daughter and three... read more

“A Parents Guide to Study Skills and School Success: How to Support Your Child and Help them Navigate School”

Coffee Break – Laguna Beach PTA Parent Education Series October, 2012 Talk will cover: The unwritten “rules” of high school and, How Parents can: Help your child cultivate positive teacher relationships Support and Facilitate Good Study Skills Plan college prep in high school (thinking ahead!) Help your teen cultivate good time management Identify Student “jobs” vs. Parent “jobs”     Read the Full... read more

Exploring Ways to Develop Successful Students

By Kate Rogers, Special to the Independent Educational consultant Cindy Muchnick described practical can-do philosophies for parents to put into practice as they support their kids through high school during last week’s PTA-sponsored parent seminar, Coffee Break. She was preceded by high school Principal Joanne Culverhouse, who introduced Naviance, an online college search service provided by the high school. Meanwhile, Muchnick, an author, former college admissions counselor and mother of four, launched into her own divergent philosophy: stay focused on the business of high school. She warned that the college search can become a “huge distraction” from the hard work needed in high school to attain the prize of college and personal freedom. She describes high school as a student’s “job,” along with the responsibility to serve the interests of six to eight teacher bosses. GPA should not be a gauge success as much as the more subjective goal of how one is doing at the job, she said. Pressing for the highest GPA adds unnecessary and unproductive stress to kids’ lives, she said. As a college admissions counselor, Muchnick said student evaluations go beyond transcripts and GPA, and offered specific recommendations to parents: Get kids to agree to sit in the first three rows of class for life. Urge students to take advantage of extra credit, which she described as “free money.”  Don’t leave it on the table. Create a study space at home free from distractions. Challenge kids to develop relationships with their teachers outside of class. To befriend upper classmen; learn the ropes through their experience. Be a joiner or a leader.  Parents can help brain-storm... read more

Praise for Straight-A Study Skills

“I loved getting a chance to go through your book. It is truly chock full of great advice for students at every level who want to get the most out of school, and who want to prepare well for the next step in their education. It provides a valuable service to students, parents, and teachers by encouraging students to take responsibility for their learning. I really like that; it puts responsibility where it belongs — with the student and how he or she approaches their learning on a very practical level. There’s a lot here — too much probably for any one student or family to fully absorb. There are hundreds of pieces of good advice, and I expect parents and children will end up highlighting a dozen or so that they want to focus on. Taking even some of this advice to heart, and acting on it, will help any student get more out of school. This could well be one of those books parents and students return to over and over again, to be reminded of the many ways to approach their schooling well.”

Christoph Guttentag

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, Duke University

“The Muchnick’s book is a thoughtful and thorough guide to ways in which student behavior can be changed for the better. I have no doubt that any student who takes their recommendations seriously will learn better, be a more successful student, and will productively apply these lessons to all of life’s work.”

Ted O'Neill

Former Dean of Admissions and Current Lecturer in Humanities, College of the University of Chicago

“This book is essential reading for students who want practical advice and a strategic plan for achieving success in the classroom and beyond. Whether you are in middle school, high school, or college, Straight-A Study Skills provides insights and strategies that will help you to become the best student you can be.”

Jody Maxmin

Associate Professor of Art History and Classics, Stanford University

“The life of a student in our increasingly technological and global world is growing more complex with every passing year. Written by the mother-and-son team of Cynthia and Justin Muchnick, one of our Phillips Academy students, this book is a helpful how-to guide for young people and their parents wishing to cut through the clutter. The Muchnicks offer hundreds of specific tips and general good sense, which should prove useful to a generation of learners seeking to make the most of their education.”

John Palfrey

Head of School, Phillips Academy Andover

“I’m so proud that Cindy, a former intern of mine, and her son, Justin, are helping young people reach their academic and personal potential.”

Barbara Boxer

U.S. Senator

Straight-A-Study Skills provides clear, concise and powerful tips for student success both inside and outside the classroom.”

Bill Coplin

Professor of Public Affairs, Maxwell School, Syracuse University

“I found, while reading through the book, many ideas that I am planning to implement at home, in order to help make my children more efficient students, and more engaged learners. I definitely recommend reading this together with your children, to discover ways you can help them take charge of their own education. Here’s to hoping these ideas can be mastered in time for mine to ace his exams!”

Newport Beach Independent

“Justin and [Cynthia] offer tips, proven methods and strategies…. There are other topics in the book, ranging from where to sit in class to answering why extra credit is so important in academics.”

Daily Pilot

“Taking even some of this advice to heart, and acting on it, will help any student get more out of school.” Newport Beach Patch

“In more than 200 concise, readable entries, this mother-son team shares valuable tips and strategies to help students learn life-changing study skills and achieve academic success. From properly fueling your body to finding a mentor to excelling outside of the classroom, the Muchnick team returns again and again to its primary message: the importance of being an active, not passive, student.” Andover magazine

“Outstanding. Highly recommended for students and parents! This book is full of practical advice for both students and parents. Cynthia Muchnick is also a highly engaging and insightful speaker. Her presentation “A Parent’s Guide to Study Skills” would resonate with all parents who want to help their students to do their best at school.” Margaret Matthews

Amazon Reader

“Great Study Guide! Easy to read and helpful guide that my daughter actually read. I would recommend this book to tweens and teens to help get organized with their study habits.” Keri Dugan

Amazon Reader

“This is a great book to teach study skills. It is easy to follow and easy read. I recommend this book to anyone looking to learn how to study and be affected.” Patricia Odom

Amazon Reader

“The student perspective makes this book unique. There are so many books about study skills on the market, but this one stands out and is unique because it is co-authored by a student himself, and an impressive one at that! It’s very easy for professors and educators to articulate the best ways to study and give advice, but it’s even more compelling when the advice comes from a student who is currently using the tips and tricks to do well in school! This book will be an essential tool for our three high school students to continue to do well in high school and to excel in a way that makes them stand out in the competitive environment of college admissions. I highly recommend this book to everyone who has a student of any age!” Barbara Boarnet

Amazon Reader

“Perfect for the reluctant student! Finally, a study skills book that a student will actually enjoy reading. While there are some very good study skills books out there, they are of no value if your student will not read it! Conversational and light in tone, the book is packed with information and students will glean many useful tips and ideas for their middle and high school years. Having a current high school student help write the book was brilliant in that the suggestions are perfectly suited for today’s students who face so many more distractions with technology, etc. than in the past. A must buy for the 8th grade graduate!” Keri U.

Amazon Reader

“If Only I Had This Book 20 years ago. Wow! The Mother-Son Dynamic Duo of Cynthia and Justin Muchnick really nailed it. Their easy-to-read, smart, poignant, accessible strategies have given me hope. The road ahead for my children has seemed daunting, as I wondered to myself- how in the world am I going to help them pull this off? The entire time I was reading, I was cheering in my mind, so happy that someone took all the tools and tricks that some people just innately do (me not being one of them!) and wrote them down. I feel like this guide is the “Little Black Book” for individuals who can “bring it” in an academic setting. This ability to “bring it” will undoubtedly breed success… success breeds confidence… and confidence breeds HAPPINESS. Isn’t that what we’re all hoping and praying for our kids? Thank you, Team Muchnick for sharing your secrets. I am thrilled to be on the inside now.” R. Francesca Moiso

Amazon Reader

“Written in a chatty and accessible style, and formatted on clear, simple, easy-to-read pages, this book won’t put off junior high through college readers, but don’t let that format belie the fact that there is important and fundamental information contained in it. The advice and information are things that took me years to figure out as a student and things which, as a college teacher, I wish my students had learned. This is a book which can easily be read through from start to finish, yet the wise student will put on a shelf and returning to as needed (when writing a research paper, studying for an exam, choosing college classes, etc). What a fabulous resource and how nice that it is truly written for the intended audience!” mgtreads

Amazon Reader

“Great book–even for students who already have good study skills! This book is very helpful–even for students who already have good study skills and do well in school. It’s packed with very useful tips, many of which are presented in a step-by-step, easy to read manner. It’s not dry as other study skills guides can be. I am having my middle school child as well as my high school students read this. I think they will find lots of useful information.” J.C.

Amazon Reader

“It’s never too soon to start! As a mother of two elementary school children, it is imperative to develop strong study skills sooner rather than later. As their schedules become busier over the next several years, chapters like Manage Time Efficiently and Take Good Notes, will be incredibly useful. Thank you for your real world insights and for compiling so many useful study tips that will serve my children now and in the future.” M. Walters

Amazon Reader

“A Must-Have Book. This book is an essential read for middle and high schoolers who want to succeed. It’s easy to read and therefore a straightforward guide for all types of students. My boys will be referring to the helpful hints over and over again with highlighter in hand!” soccermom

Amazon Reader

“As a university professor for many years, I have experienced many varieties of learners. Some are here because it’s what comes next, some because they are longing for independence and the college experience, some because they are worried about being successfully in the future and a very special few are here because they love the learning process. Regardless of your motives and all are valid, this book will help you reach your educational goals. Learning at any level is a collaborative relationship with each partner doing their part. This couldn’t be more apparent than in the writing relationship between the mother/son duo in authoring Straight A Study Skills! Each contribute a perspective that complements the other, a checks and balance system that has resulted in a very user friendly, direct, invaluable resource for students about how to maximize their part in becoming a straight A student. Buy it, use it, be successful!” psyched

Amazon Reader

“Recipe for Success. Read this book if you want to set yourself up for success in school, college, and life. The very best students develop the right study skills early. I see this on a regular basis in hiring the top 2% of the graduating college seniors into the real world. This book is packed with immediate and practical steps for students of all ages to get on the fast track to college.” Daydreamer

Amazon Reader

“There are a lot of experts on this topic – A LOT – most of whom are very helpful. But never has there been a book on study skills (co-) written BY the target, FOR the target. Justin lives, breathes and applies these skill every day – with great success – and it shows. Authenticity and harmony between this mother-son duo bring this book to life. Definitely the new bible in our family.” Joe Jenkins

Amazon Reader

“Straight A Study Skills: More Than 200 Essential Strategies to Ace Your Exams, Boost Your Grades, and Achieve Lasting Academic Success” should be a mandatory book for all middle school and high school students. My 5th grader also loves this book. As a former teacher, a tutor, and mother of two boys and two girls, each with a different learning style, I highly recommend this book. My only regret is that I only have two thumbs to raise up!

“Straight A Study Skills” is written by a mother son duo: Mom, Cindy Muchnick, MA, a Stanford alumna who as an expert in the field of school success, writes, speaks, and works directly with parents and kids of all ages. Her co-author and son, Justin Muchnick, attended one of the most rigorous and prestigious private schools in Southern California before beginning as a freshman at the renowned boarding school, Andover. While their resumes may seem intimidating, their book is anything but. The writing style is conversational and relatable and readers will be additionally thankful that the wisdom in this book does not come across as “preachy.”

The content of the book is broken down into 10 chapters, further broken down into clearly marked mini topics which can be applied immediately. For example, Chapter Four: Manage Time Efficiently – pre-teens and teens will love the advice about breaking down big tasks and rewarding themselves throughout: “Work in smaller increments such as twenty minutes at a time, and then stretch, drink a beverage, eat some M& M’s, or respond to an email. Then go back to work for another twenty minutes.”
Another favorite is Chapter 8 (Study Effectively) Students will be relieved to receive validation that while many believe studying at a desk in an uncomfortable chair or at a tiny space in the library is the best way to study, in fact, “studying doesn’t have to be that depressing” Muchnick and Muchnick advise instead to “study anywhere you feel comfortable (e.g. in your room, in bed, at the library, in an empty classroom, at a café, outside, in the park) As long as you minimize distractions and promise yourself you will change venues if you don’t get work done.

The Appendixes are excellent: Info on standardized tests, a great list of resources, and a study calendar that students can fill out.
There is so much packed into this book – nothing superfluous. Every sentence counts. Great ideas from writing a good research paper to building relationships with your teachers, the importance of becoming involved in after school activities and more.

Straight A Study Skills is best read with a highlighter, and I have a feeling the Muchnicks would say, “choose your favorite color.” While buying this book for your own children, why not buy a copy for your school library as well – I did!” taximom

Amazon Reader

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